I’m a big fan of exploring and getting to know a good brew. When the seasons change I’m always looking forward to the next seasonal release to be put out by brewers to celebrate the seasons. As fall turns to winter, what better time to consider the options available for a solid seasonal beer experience. Brother-in-law and seasoned pub crawler, Brenton Novak joined me to explore some beers. One needs to start a journey in earnest, and what better place to start a beer journey than at a local temple of all things beer: The Peoria Hofbrau House.
We have arrived. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is on draught, it’s a staple seasonal. A great beer from a brilliant brewery; Sierra Nevada has built a solid portfolio on quality beers since 1980. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale was first brewed in 1981. At 6.8% alcohol by volume it is a sturdy India Pale Ale (IPA). Brenton ordered a small Erdinger Weissbier, and a daring duo of those chili cheese dogs—proud veterans of the Peoria Hot Dog Wars. As for me, I had my favorite sandwich: a Rueben.
As you can tell from the photograph, Celebration has a gorgeous copper body and a frothy off-white head. IPAs are probably my-go to beer style. Celebration Ale is an IPA for people who aren’t too sure about IPAs, also. I am the Hophead when it comes to beer—my wife on the other hand prefers lagers such as Corona, Budweiser, Weihenstephaner Oktoberfest. As for ales, she likes Erdinger, or Redd’s Apple. My wife quaffed a bottle of the Celebration Ale and loved it. This IPA isn’t as bold or assertive as others in its family. It’s far from Sierra Nevada’s high-powered Torpedo and Hoptimum beers.
A note before continuing deeper on this beer journey, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is classified as an IPA on Ratebeer. Yet, on Beer Advocate it is considered an American IPA. While there are differences in bitterness, flavors, and aromas within every beer style-for our purposes we’ll be calling this an IPA. After-all, this is beer, not the DSM-I-V; we’re not looking to classify Tyrannosaurus Rex in his family or genus. We need beer—not an over precise taxonomy. If we keep dwelling on beer styles we’ll be like the amateur teacher telling the parents of one of their students that he has ADD, when in reality he just needs a new teacher, and his parents probably need a beer.
Brenton and I left the Hofbrau, and sortied to make a beer run where we did a mix-a-six. I picked up three winter seasonal, and popped in the film adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. I love a good, campy, and unpretentious Space Opera. As Johnny Rico played indoor arena football for the Buenos Aires Education Center—I popped open the can of Euphoria Pale Ale by the Ska Brewing Company of Durango, Colorado. Euphoria is a great example of how a basic pale ale should taste.
Ska is a brewery that proudly cans beer-quality beer. If you like Bass Pale Ale, you will enjoy Euphoria. Enough talk; let’s pour this beer.
Brenton is having the Modus Hoperandi, Ska’s flagship IPA that you see in the green can to the left. It is fully poured, and it looks great.
This is another crisp, refreshing ale similar to Sierra Nevada’s Celebration, but with less Hop and it’s leaning towards a grassy, crisp flavor.
We had pizza about a third of the way through the movie, and with that pizza I had the lovely Jubelale by the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon. I enjoy Deschutes IPAs and I especially love their Obsidian Stout.
Jubelale is a Winter Warmer, and it does very much that. Out of the Winter Warmers that I have tried, I can say this is the one I tolerate. Again, I’m an IPA, Stout, Weissbier kind of guy.
This beer is dark and thick. This wasn’t a disappointment—it was another so-so experience with Winter Warmers. If this is your thing-check it out though. The barn owl looking over the brewery is a cool scene on the label.
Last beer for the night is Smuttynose Winter Ale by the Smuttynose Brewing Company of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The woman on the ale seems pretty excited. Perhaps this is a good beer, or she’s ready to go caroling with her pal, Cherry Ames. Or maybe she’s going to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Label Land Family Restaurant.
Out of the three beers, I’d give this second place. It has a pleasant aroma, and tastes like raisins. I later discovered this is a Belgian dubbel. I don’t mind Belgian style beers, yet they are not my favorites. I know now why the label looks goofy—she realized I was falling into the funky, yet sometimes sour, and fruity world of Belgian Beers. Not bad, but not my favorite. We’re calling it. They captured the Brain Bug and Doogie Howser’s (Neil Patrick Harris’) Colonelcy remains intact—I need to read the book and watch the sequels.
One Day Later
Here’s a winter beer dessert. Sam Adams (The Boston Beer Company) Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout, 9% ABV, this is probably considered a Malt Liquor in certain parts of the country. Let’s take a look at the label a tear, but that doesn’t affect quality
These three Gingerbreadfolk are on sled running from either a hungry Santa Claus or a confused Carrie Nation. Or perhaps the Coca-Cola Polar Bear wants to drench them in Aspartame. The options are endless as you know—it’s all speculation. It’s time for a stout.
This is a jet black elixir, thick, warming, and heavy. This beer’s layered flavors range from the subtle to the bold. Gingerbread, cinnamon, and all sorts of holiday trappings surface as one delves through this dark pipeline of flavor
Look at the beige head, this is a beer! Reminds me of Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (Ole Raspy to me), this is a festive mood. I hope you learned something, and I hope you have some ideas about the options available to you for wintertime libations.
Holiday cheers and remember: Drink responsibly—do not turn holidays into tragedies for your loved ones.